Tag Archives: Lifestyle

My fabulously friendly feathered friend

I’m not known to be much of a bird lover.

A traumatic experience involving a blue budgie and a typhoon in my early years put paid to that. And then there were the bullying ‘Doves of Peace’ …..

So with the exception of our glorious divas – six silver and gold wyandotte and one baby bantam who I am totally smitten with ,other birds ( although totally wonderful to listen to and watch from a distance) leave me relatively unmoved – particularly by their proclivity to make disgusting our deck cushions ( always the cushions with such accuracy and never the floor….) and newly washed windows.

But a funny thing happened a few weeks ago that has got me thinking about things much deeper than bird poo.

One day a fantail flew into the kitchen.

It was totally unphased about the new surroundings and took perch on a gladioli and then the bird box.

Ok, at this point I have to admit I have a bird box in the kitchen. It was a gift from M and is just adorable – as are all his amazingly thoughtful gifts. It’s a piece of art and far too good to be a bird house…. so it now happily lives in the kitchen.

As I have done many times in the past in various places when birds overstepped their rightful place, I went to shoo the bird out and hoped that they did so without depositing their poo everywhere which they tend to do when stressed.

It had other ideas and exuding an almost bird zen, looked at me, ignored me and then went for an unflustered fly before leaving. And no poo.

I thought nothing more.

I was out picking plums. Guess who decided to come and sit on the branch where I was picking? Totally unphased at the movement of both me and branch, chatting away like a good neighbour catching up on the news and only leaving after escorting me back to the house.

Then, while feeding the divas, who decides to sit on the food feeder ? Who decides to give me ( in the car) an escort from the gate down the drive and then sit on the door as I attempt to get out?

Working in the garage – who keeps me company by swinging off the door opener cord?

And then, when cutting the grass – not frightened by the power and noise of the ride-on mower ( unlike the Doodles…).

The list goes on.

What is now a ( several) daily occurrence , I’m beginning to feel like Snow White ( ….from the movie, when she sings and the birds and woodland animals follow her and sing along…)

Getting in touch with my inner Snow White

M ( being the practical one) says all fantails are territorial and that these were all different birds…

Unphased about him inadvertantly trying to kill my fantail buzz, I assured a sceptical him that I can recognise it ( I think they have slightly different markings – if they don’t, let me pretend).

Then I had a ( jokingly) deep and meaningful thought. What if this was something more – what if this little bird was reaching out to me in some way – a message from something none of us understand. I’ve often read stories about people believing that spirits can return in bird form for a variety of reasons – and always write them off as people with waaaay too much time on their hands – or bonkers. Or both.

My little friend – who I have not named as that really did seem like the first stop to crazy town – continues to follow me pretty much everywhere. I know his call and even with doors shut I know when he’s ( or she’s) around. Today, he was sitting on the door handle for me….

I don’t think it’s a sign. Nor do I think there’s anything more to this than a delightful and unexpected experience that has made me smile often and enjoy this little creatures company and antics.

In his short lifespan, he has delivered more than he was ever destined to and to top it all off, has shown impeccable toilet habits. For me, that’s definitely worth celebrating.

Fi

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Checking out the indoor bird house
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Picking plums
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Trying the door….
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Kylie and Gaga – two of our beautiful Divas

Ladybirds Ate My Wifi

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Lovely wifi eating ladybirds

 

Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

In Auckland when we lost our internet connection ( and alongside it, very quickly our sanity – #firstworldproblems) it was normally storms, power cuts or greedy teenagers gobbling up our monthly allowance.

But in the almost 2 years since we moved to Paradise, even though we are distinctly of rural setting and have lived through some significant events including earthquake, our wifi has never been affected.

Until today.

A few minutes ago I heard something I never thought I could hear in this life or any other.

Ladybirds had managed to find a way to take up residence in the receiver box on the roof and block the signal. Not just any old insects or ( as expected) likely  rodents….., no, these were ladybirds. About 50 of them.

And then the clincher, “ and this is about the third time I’ve seen this happen over the last few weeks….”, said our straight faced technician. So, serial wifi blockers.

Why is it that the thought of ladybirds gathering in such a way is almost poetic and they are so easily forgiven for the disruption they’ve caused to my ability to work and ( let’s be honest) be on social media today! A mouse gnawing through a cable would receive much harsher comment…and treatment.

So, we may be able to survive earthquake and storm but when it comes to ladybirds, there is no contest.

I’m now off to liberate said clever ladybirds into a new and not so disruptive environment.

Fi

The joys of abundance

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I used to be able to buy a glass ( or bottle) of wine without a care in the world – especially for those who toil on a daily basis to create what fills that particular glass or bottle.

Changed days.

In the relatively short time we have been the proud new parents of our little vineyard in paradise, we have had more sleepless nights , stress and worry than any of our collective three offspring or two labradoodles ever brought us.

Don’t get me wrong. Like actual new parents, we love it. We are bursting with pride, we tell anyone who stands still long enough all about it and like childbirth, you forget the pain quickly as you appreciate the benefits!

However we have a new found respect for the hard work of those making the decisions to ensure that harvest brings the best quality grapes that , in turn, will make the highest quality wine.

Yesterday in the vineyard was the green cut or final thinning ; the time you take out a varying quantity of grapes, depending on what mother nature has thrown at this particular vintage. Certain weather conditions will bring greater numbers of bunches per vine and heavier weights of bunches. All of this is critical to the winemaker to ensure they get the best product for them to weave their magic in the winemaking process.

‘Waste not want not ’

Now it may be my Scottish blood, but I’m no fan of waste. Seeing beautiful bunches of grapes ( that taste sensational!) lying disregarded – even if for the ultimate sacrifice – makes me sad but then, more positively, makes me start looking for ways they can be used.

We’re not alone, a quick drive around our neighbourhood shows many of the vineyards doing the same thing in their quest for the perfect vintage.

I spent part of the day collecting the disregarded bunches and distributing them to family and friends ( ….funnily enough not as much of a novelty for them in this wine region, as it would have been in urban Auckland…!).

New friends find it wildly amusing that my newcomers eyes still marvel at the produce around us – and the amount that goes unused and unloved. They tell me that over the years  I’ll get used to it.

I’m not so sure.

I love the idea of using everything I can – for ourselves and sharing –  and I have set myself a challenge this year of making maximum use of everything we produce. Not quite self sufficiency- I’m nowhere near capable enough for that ! –  but at least a step in its general direction.

To be honest, some things are easier than others ! Apricots ? Plums ? No problem.

So I up my challenge to try to make things I’ve never done before.

‘Fun with grapes’

Finding good productive use for the surplus grapes is the current challenge.

After a quick trawl on-line, thoughts turn to verjuice and delicious natural juice from sun kissed grapes that on another day would have made stunning pinot noir.  Then there’s jams, jellies, raisins – thanks to a borrowed dehydrator-  and when all else is done, there’s compost!

I have added them to my growing list of ‘things to produce’ in my search for using as much as I can from this wonderful little pocket of the world that we call home.

Of course there is always a silver lining – the birds are happy with this suddenly readily available and easily accessible food source so hopefully , if we are very lucky, they may focus on that and leave our netted precious bounty alone.

Cheers,

Fi

 

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what a waste….

 

You can also follow me on Instagram at nzgoodlife  See you there !

The sweet side of life

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Edinburgh’s Luca’s ice cream – back in the day 

 

I love Marlborough. I may be a relatively new import but my fresh eyes appreciate it every day. It makes me smile, inside and out.

So when I was asked to share my blog on ‘searching for the good life ‘ in Admire , I didn’t hesitate!

Moving to a new area gives you the opportunity to reevaluate what is important to you, what you have left behind and what makes your new hometown great.

Amongst a long list of revelations are some that have made life just that bit sweeter.

Literally…..

I’m thinking sweets. Sweet treats. Cakes. Slices. Just like Grandma used to make ( or sometimes even better…!)

In the bigger cities, you are swamped with homogenous offerings that are mass produced and fill shelf after shelf of the vast number of bakeries around town. They satisfy a sweet tooth or craving but that’s about all. No one is ever going to ask for the recipes.

However, visit any home bake stall at a school gala or similar and just make sure you’re there early as they are always the most popular, sell out quick and make a tidy contribution to fund raising.

Books on home baking, jam making and preserving crowd the shelves and most of us can admit to having a few in the kitchen – either for use or (more likely ) decoration !

We love it. We can’t get enough of it. Honest, simple and ‘home-made’.

And lucky for us, Marlborough does it well and does it in abundance.

We are blessed with the number of high quality cafés that cater for every craving. But the stand out is the vast array of authentic baked goods that we are spoiled with . Most are lovingly made fresh each day.

Trust me, this is not normal.

Normal is the generic and standardised produce mentioned above that floods the larger town and cities.

Whether it’s a slice of heaven in the form of the lemon syrup cake with mascarpone and vanilla buttercream filling from Ritual, or the fabulous date and cinnamon scones that follow a precious recipe from generations of talented family chefs from CBD, or many many on my list, we are spoiled for choice.

Baking and treats are an emotional issue. They connect us with memories and can transport us in an instant to happy times gone by – often involving parents and grandparents.

When I was growing up in Edinburgh, it was a family treat to go to S Luca ice cream parlour for a chocolate nougat wafer or a ’99’  with their incredible vanilla ice cream ( there were 3 flavours back then – vanilla , chocolate and strawberry but they were all amazing). Then when my girls were growing up in North Yorkshire , it was Suggits ice cream in Great Ayton for their treats. Both have been around for a long time. In Marlborough we don’t have an ice cream shop with such a history, but we should and luckily we have one that merits longevity. D’Vine gelato transports me back to the best of the best. Not only that, but they make their own fudge on site – another treat destination for young and old alike. As we start our own next generation this year, I’m looking forward to many reasons to take them there for their treats.

Now although I will admit to having a selective sweet tooth, I’m very particular when it comes to choosing my empty calories! Not any chocolate will do ( I’ve been known to re route business trips to allow me to visit See’s candies in the USA for one particular chocolate…….I kid you not). But I’ve happily adapted to some of the wonderful creations at our very own chocolate factory – Makana – with the Marlborough salted caramels being my go to when I need a bit of a chocolate fix. How lucky are we to have our very own gold ticket to visit whenever we want – and get free samples too!

There are so many reasons to be happy here in Marlborough. Some more important than others.

Sweet treats and nostalgia may not have been top of my wish list when it came to moving but it has arguably been the icing on the cake…..…!

Fi

 

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Makana Chocolate factory in Marlborough

Best Christmas Cake ever!

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Deliciousness in a box

This is the best Christmas cake. Ever!

Now that’s quite a claim. Many of my friends have recipe books going back generations and I’m sure there will be a Christmas cake in there somewhere that they will remember as being something special.

But I’m laying claim to this one and ( hopefully) starting a generational thing that will be shared for many years to come. There are many things I would like to be remembered by and this could just be one of them !

It’s a sad sign of the times when most people I know are simply too busy to even think about making a cake at this time of year. Ok, I know it’s not a top priority but that’s the thing. What are the priorities?  I don’t even think it’s the cake that’s the problem. we are all just too busy doing ‘ stuff’ that one more thing to do could just be the step too far.

But tradition is good. It’s a link to our past, our heritage and where we came from. Christmas may be the last bastion of tradition so I for one am keen to keep some of the behaviours peculiar to our family going for as long as I can. And that includes cake.

So, put on some Christmas music, light a candle ( Christmas scent preferable) , pour a glass of egg nog ( ok, wine is absolutely fine as a substitute ! ), switch off the phone and start your own traditions….one slice of cake at a time….:)

Recipe 

 I use a 26cm cake box – lined on the inside and then wrapped in newspaper and tied with string around the outside to ensure it doesn’t cook too quickly on the sides.

  • 2kg mixed dried fruit – raisins, currants, sultanas etc
  • 500g butter
  • 500g brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125g chopped blanched almonds if you like
  • Brandy  (be generous)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 500g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • chopped glacé cherries if you like

Put fruit in covered bowl overnight with generous swigs of your chosen tipple until it’s well sozzled ( not a technical term but you get my drift) .The smell is divine and it will take all your will power not to eat it all there and then and forget the cake!

Next day put the drunken fruit, butter, sugar and golden syrup into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to stop the mixture burning ( very important!). Add lemon, spices, salt, chopped almonds and a bit more brandy.

Stirring continuously, simmer for 10 minutes, then add cornflour. Mix well and remove from heat. Leave to cool thoroughly.

Beat eggs. Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda, add alternately to cooled fruit mixture. Bake in the middle of the oven at 160˚C for 30 minutes. Then 120˚C for 4 hours. (Cooking times may vary depending on the oven.) Cool in the box, then wrap in greaseproof paper and foil to keep it moist. Put in air tight container somewhere dark and cool.

Bask in the heavenly scent of the cake.

I suggest you make the cake about 5 weeks before the big day and then every week carefully unwrap it and use a skewer to make a few holes to allow a few tablespoons of brandy to soak through it.

Then for the icing. Our family tradition since I was little involved my Dad “making” the cake. Actually what was really the case was Mum doing everything , including making a royal icing but Dad then swirling it on the cake to make snow patterns and placing Santa and decorations on top. His cake 🙂

Whether you have children helping with making christmas biscuits or cookies or whether you gift yourself time to do the whole cake thing in splendid Christmas peace , make time to create and enjoy your own traditions.

Fi

Something’s bugging me

Literally .

Although not just something . I know exactly what it (they) is (are).

There were a few things that failed to make it on to the property particulars when we moved to Marlborough and, more specifically, to Paradise.

One was the wind in late spring / early summer. Although we had visited the area many many times, we must have just hit lucky on avoiding the wind. Windy Wellington – your more beautiful and slightly wine addled neighbour across the Strait can most certainly give you a run for your money on the wind front – at least for part of the year.

But that’s not it.

What’s bugging me is bugs.

Not affecting me personally, but there’s most certainly a fleeting possibility of threat for our precious babies budding out in the vineyard.

At a certain time of year (now) , the brown beetles or May bugs ( creatively named after their annual appearance in the northern hemisphere ) awaken from neighbouring paddocks to strike fear into the hearts and pockets of grape growers. The bugs choose to burst into life as the sun sets on beautiful days and, from nearby paddocks, aim for the moon and land on the vines. If they get their chance they will then happily procreate and eat their way through the leaves and buds, potentially causing damage.

My first reaction on hearing about our unknown challenge  was confidence that there must be something that could deter them ( or more accurately blitz them into oblivion). But being organic, with a karma-esque attitude to living things, we have found our options are limited.

So, our ritual now is an enforced walk of the vineyard every night as darkness creeps in. Torches in hand, we inspect the leaves and flick the bugs to the ground, where they can no longer do any damage.

No matter how many times we are told by those who have considerable experience in this : “ you’ll know when you have a problem” – ( thankfully, we haven’t found out so far) – we still spend our time cursing the little bug(ger)s and counting how many we knock off. Although a swarm in the thousands is what we are told will indicate an issue (?!) , we still feel the overwhelming need to protect our babies and that’s where it gets compulsive. We are the equivalent of first-time parents. Anxious to do the right thing but no experience yet to give us any real perspective. Being told that we are probably the only growers paying such attention is little comfort.

Although small numbers of bugs will not cause damage, the very fact they are there ‘bugs’ M & I . So we currently spend our evenings knocking as many off leaves as we can, while acknowledging nightly that we can’t get around every single vine.

But we still try.

A good friend who is born and bred in both the area and the industry and therefore experienced in such matters, not so reassuringly said to me, “ you really don’t have a problem until they’re mating on your eyeballs….” .

Now there’s a less than comforting thought to hold for the next few weeks…..

But. 

And there’s always a but!

This has given us the pleasure of having a nightly walk together under glorious inky skies. The doodles happily chase hedgehogs and whatever else they pick up a scent on. We talk. We appreciate our surroundings. We count blessings.

Welcome to Paradise !

Yours (hopefully) bug free,

Fi

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The little                  brown bug(ger)s!

It never rains…

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Treat your friends well…

 

Well it does actually. And it should be enough to fill up the multiple water tanks that are an essential part of growing our future wine- drinking pleasure.

But.

And as with many things we have started to learn, there always seems to be a but….

After the heaviest rain of the year, we were smugly congratulating each other on how well set up we were for the forthcoming and expected dry season.

Water becomes a major talking point when you live in the country. I can’t say I gave it much thought as a city dweller. Tap on , water out – simple and uncomplicated. But after a year of living off what you collect, you start to pay more attention.

Or, let’s say,  you should pay more attention. As we now know, it’s not enough to think that heavy rain necessarily equates to full tanks. It’s a fair assumption, but that would only be if there was an actual way for said rain to make it into the tanks……

Which there wasn’t.

After many years, debris collected in our ageing gutters had finally claimed victory and by way of punishment for being neglected, was redirecting our precious water gathering to a flourishing and plentiful weed supply.

Is it just me or is it never a ‘normal ‘situation when you run out of water?

It’s never when you are showered and not going anywhere important or when you have filled the dog bowls or when you have no guests arriving to stay.

It’s always ( in my far too extensive experience) when you are filthy, have no back up water in the fridge and the dogs are ready to leave home in protest ….

 

Water is your best friend. Treat it well. Respect it. Don’t take it for granted or it may well, one -day, decide to seek pastures new…

Fi